‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’
Not many of us have first-hand experience of keeping sheep. Perhaps the closest we’ve come to it is watching the TV Series about sheepdog trials, One Man and His Dog. We’ve seen the shepherd, often at some distance behind his sheep, letting the dog demonstrate its expertise, guided by shouted command.
In Biblical days, however, the shepherd went first, looking out for danger, while the sheep followed. The much-loved 23rd Psalm tells us – ‘The Lord is my shepherd … He leads me beside still waters.’ The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, leading us, reminds us that Jesus goes before us, into every situation. We don’t need to face anything alone. In any new situation he’s there already. Whether it’s an illness that’s just been diagnosed, a new job or relationship, we need fear no evil.
If the Good Shepherd is leading us, we need to follow him – not dash off in other directions like some of those sheep on One Man and His Dog.
What does following Jesus mean? Among other things it means spreading the good news of the kingdom in word and action. We may not all be preachers or teacher, but even the way we live our lives can draw others to Jesus. Most of us are not called to lay down our lives for others, but we are called to dedicate our lives to them in the name of Jesus. Can we share God’s love with others so that they too can follow Jesus? At every service of Holy Communion we recall how Christ died and rose again, to lead us all into eternal life. We give thanks that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. This surely demands a response.
Your friend and rector,